In our household the year 2013 closed out on a stressful note and the year 2014 has continued with that theme. The litany of mounting pressures covers the gamut from a deadline for completion of a new book proposal to Christmas with only half the grandkids, the hospitalization of an in law and subsequent need to arrange for transportation, set up prescription delivery, and related problems, and having a dear friend suffering through a bad cold.
So, even though there was a pressing need to address some business related items, my dearest friend and I got our priorities in order yesterday and went on a picnic. When the world hands you lemons this is the only thing I can think of to do, especially if it is seventy degrees in January.
On the road to Hackberry.
Last week our outing was but a short drive to the old town site of Stockton Hill, an adventure the ended with an afternoon spent waiting for tire repairs. This time we set out for the ghost town of Hackberry and a search for evidence of the National Old Trails Highway.
It was a rather low key adventure, at least as far as our adventures go. We journeyed west on Route 66, crossed the railroad tracks a mile or so east of Antares Point, and then slowly drove to Hackberry while scanning the desert and the roadside for evidence that this may have once been the course of the National Old Trails Highway.
The road shows ample evidence of somewhat regular maintenance so with the exception of a few wash crossings with sandy spots we encountered nothing difficult enough to even consider use of four wheel drive. This and the fact that the construction of a high tension power line had obviously necessitated use of heavy equipment gave us little hope of finding century old evidence that this was the course of the National Old Trails Highway.
Still, scattered here and there were hints of rusty tin cans and assorted odds and ends. At one spot near a ridge line above a wash the debris field seemed untouched by road maintenance or other construction.
It was here that we found items dating to at least the mid 1920s and possibly a bit earlier. Among these were assorted car parts such as a hood from a Model T vintage vehicle, and shards of heavy glass turned purple and dark green by the desert sun.
The finding of purple glass in the desert is not always a guarantee of age even though it would be a relatively safe bet, especially if the debris field isn’t tainted. A primary cause of this colorization is resultant from the use of manganese in the manufacture of glass, a mineral utilized by manufacturers between roughly 1860 and 1915.
So, if the glass is heavy and is turning purple, you have a fair shot of guessing a rough time period for manufacture. Likewise with clear glass turning a dark green indicating use of selenium in manufacture which was common after 1915.
Then if the glass is found with other debris such as car parts of a pre 1930 nature, certain types of spark plugs, tin cans opened with a knife, and similar items, you can guess a period when the junk was left along the road.
In this instance my guess would be 1930, plus or minus a few years even though we did find a few items that were obviously older. Still, this isn’t ample evidence to confirm that this was in fact the course of the National Old Trails Highway.
A more intriguing find was discovered a few hundred yards to the west. A culvert showed clear indication of relatively modern repair but age was also quite evident.
As this was little more than a power line road that provided access to a remote ranch, and as the road in its current course crossed the sand washes without drainage, why would there by a culvert at this location?
After making our little discoveries we wrapped up the adventure in a rather simplistic manner. We cruised main street in Hackberry, found a little side road east of town, drove back toward the railroad, and found a quiet place for a picnic.
When the world hands you lemons its definitely time for a picnic.